This martial arts instructor moved to Toronto during the pandemic. He found a rental for $ 1,800 per month in High Park-Swansea

Which: Babak Cheraghi, a 30-year-old martial arts instructor (@ babakch91)

The story: Cheraghi was born and raised in Tehran, the capital of Iran. There he taught an Iranian martial art called Nearu, which teaches self defense with an emphasis on mindfulness and empowerment.

In 2019, Cheraghi immigrated to Canada for a new experience and to teach Nearu in another country. He considered living in Toronto, which has a large Iranian community, but ultimately moved to Montreal because his younger sister lived there. In addition, the rent for an apartment, as well as a gymnasium to teach classes, was cheaper in Montreal than in Toronto.

Cheraghi rented an apartment with one bed and one bathroom for $ 1,300 per month in the village of Shaughnessy, in downtown Montreal. He also rented a gymnasium with a capacity of 40 students, for $ 1,000 per month. Winters in Montreal were harsh, but Cheraghi loved living there.

The only downside was that Cheraghi didn’t speak French. Despite this language barrier, Cheraghi has built up a following, teaching more than 30 students in his gymnasium, as well as 30 others in a fitness class at Concordia.

When Covid struck, Cheraghi continued to teach virtually from his apartment. He also started taking courses to improve his French. But in 2021, he was still struggling to communicate, especially online, where he couldn’t work one-on-one with his students, demonstrating different movements.

In the fall of 2021, he decided to consider moving to Toronto, where he could find more English-speaking students.

The hunt: In early September, Cheraghi traveled to Toronto for a day trip to find accommodation. He wanted a one-bedroom apartment close to public transportation, for less than $ 2,000 a month. Another must: a parking space.

He had never visited the city before, so he asked friends in the GTA for advice on where to look. They told him about Richmond Hill and Thornhill, where many members of the Iranian diaspora lived and worked.

Cheraghi liked the Iranian shops and restaurants in these neighborhoods, but preferred being closer to downtown Toronto.

Other friends recommended that he visit High Park-Swansea. The neighborhood was in a great location: the city center was only a short drive from the TTC, but there were peaceful residential streets and nature trails close to High Park.

The park also had good public facilities, such as a swimming pool and tennis courts in the summer, and an ice rink in the winter.

Towards the end of his day trip, he found a listing for an apartment with one bed and one bathroom, located across from High Park. The building was old, but the apartment had a large living room and a south-facing balcony with a view of the park.

The place also came with a parking space. It was available for $ 1,800 per month. The building even offered the first two months of rent free as they struggled to find tenants during the pandemic. Cheraghi got him back and in October he moved in.

The result: Two months later, Cheraghi is still adjusting to the city. During his first month in the city, he took a trip to the Toronto Islands, where he marveled at the downtown skyline.

And before the latest Omicron-induced shutdowns, Cheraghi enjoyed shopping at the many Iranian supermarkets near Yonge and Steeles, which sell ingredients for his favorite childhood dishes, such as Halim, a meat porridge, and Dizi, a Traditional stew of lamb and chickpeas.

He also frequented several Iranian restaurants – one of his favorites is the Takht-e-Tavoos in Dufferin Grove.

When it comes to starting his new gym, Cheraghi struggled to find an affordable space near his High Park apartment, so he extended his search to the outskirts of the GTA.

On Kijiji, he found a spare room advertised by the Victoria International Ballet Academy in Vaughan. It was an hour’s drive north of his home, but it was available for a bargain of $ 600 per month. The room also comfortably accommodated up to 20 students.

In November, Cheraghi started teaching there. To date, 10 students have registered.

Once he sets up his business, Cheraghi hopes to open a gymnasium in downtown Toronto. From January 2022, if closures allow, Cheraghi will also teach Nearu classes at community centers in the city.


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